Analogue Pocket can now run ROMs thanks to openFPGA update

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Just hours after the launch of the OS v1.1 Beta firmware update, the Analogue Pocket can now run ROMs thanks to the new openFPGA feature.

It was just one day ago that we shared our article about the changes coming to the Analogue Pocket’s firmware.

Check that out here: Analogue Reveals new “openFPGA” For Their Pocket Handheld.

We discussed some of the important details about FPGA technology and the difference between software and hardware “emulating” game play from some of our favorite retro game consoles.

Well, as we predicted, things just got real exciting for the Analogue Pocket.

So how did we get here?

The Analogue Pocket was launched with the ability to play original Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance game cartridges on a hardware setup that would perfectly mimic the performance of original Nintendo hardware.

If you purchased one of Analogue’s adapters, you could do the same with Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket, Neo Geo Pocket Color, and Atari Lynx cartridges as well.

Analogue is always sure to clarify that their device is not designed to offer software emulation and that the use of game ROMs is not an officially supported function.

The Analogue Pocket “emulates” original hardware. It does not emulate game play through software.

It’s an important difference, though most users won’t know or care about that.

Well, the launch of Analogue’s new software feature openFPGA sooooort of opens the door to something that feels a lot like software emulation (it’s technically not, but still).

That didn’t take very long

Typically, when a major company is about to launch a product or update, they will contact media and influencers and give them the heads up.

That gives folks like us the chance to write our articles about the exciting news and have everything ready to launch at the time and date that the company specifies.

So details about the new features for the Pocket have been known to some of us for a little while.

This includes developers who could create new openFPGA cores for the Analogue Pocket.

News about the Analogue Pocket update was under embargo until July 29 at 8am PDT.

Well, it was about three and a half hours later that the Github account Spiritualized1997 launched with two new FPGA cores for the Pocket: openFPGA-GBA and openFPGA-GB-GBC.

Presumably, Spiritualized1997 was in the know about the new openFPGA features and had been working on these features for a while now.

Analogue Pocket - openFPGA
Photos provided by David Knott (instagram @nintendiy_)

What does that all mean?

So yeah, within hours of the firmware update, the Analogue Pocket can now play ROM files directly from the SD card slot, much like some of the Best Retro Handhelds (the ones that focus on retro game emulation).

You can play any one of the Best Gameboy Games, Best Gameboy Color Games or Best Gameboy Advance (GBA) Games on the Analogue Pocket without a game cartridge.

And because you are playing those games using FPGA hardware, not software emulation, those games should theoretically perform identical to original hardware performance.

It’s not like many of us can tell the difference. Game Boy emulation has been pretty much perfect for years now. If it plays, it plays.

But what makes this new third-party feature so exciting is that now, finally, we can play game ROMs on one of the most beautiful handheld consoles that has ever been released.

The Pocket was already insanely beautiful and one of the most desirable consoles on the scene.

That screen alone was reason to prefer it to any other game console you have in your collection.

But the main complaint about the Pocket was that you also had to have a bunch of original game carts.

So, as expected, the community has delivered the feature that Analogue couldn’t (legally): ROM game play straight from the SD card slot.

Analogue Pocket - openFPGA
Photos provided by David Knott (instagram @nintendiy_)

What’s next?

It’s just a matter of time before we get Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and whatever other retro game consoles are compatible with the Analogue Pocket’s button configuration and hardware capabilities.

If you were on the fence about the Analogue Pocket in the past, now is the best time to get yourself on the pre-order list or try to get one that is already out in the wild.

The Analogue Pocket just became one of the most beautiful retro game emulators on the market… sort of.

Still hardware level emulation. An important distinction. But the users won’t notice the difference.

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